Coronavirus Live Updates: Scientists Warn the Virus Could Kill Up to 240,000 Americans


The top government scientists battling the coronavirus estimated Tuesday that the deadly pathogen could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, in spite of the social distancing measures that have drastically limited citizens’ interactions and movements.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who is coordinating the coronavirus response, displayed the grim projection at a White House news conference and then joined President Trump in pledging to do everything possible to reduce the numbers even further.

President Trump officially called for another month of social distancing and warned that “this is going to be a very painful, very very painful two weeks” — even as he added that Americans would soon “start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going through a very tough few weeks,” Mr. Trump said, later raising his two weeks to three.

The scientists’ conclusions generally match those from similar models by public health researchers around the globe. Mr. Trump, who spent weeks playing down the threat of the virus, congratulated himself for the projections, which he said showed that strict public health measures may have already curtailed the death toll. He suggested that as many as 2.2 million people “would have died if we did nothing, if we just carried on with our life.” By comparison, Mr. Trump said, a potential death toll of 100,000 “is a very low number.”

But on a day when the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surged above 4,000, surpassing China’s official count, the pandemic’s personal and financial toll continued to play out across the nation.

A chorus of governors from across the political spectrum publicly challenged the Trump administration’s assertion that the United States is well-stocked and well-prepared to test people for the coronavirus and care for the sickest patients. In many cases, the governors said, the country’s patchwork approach had left them bidding against one another for supplies.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York — whose younger brother, Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor, has tested positive for the virus — likened the conflicts to “being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.”

In other states, hundreds of thousands of Americans — biting back shame and wondering guiltily about others in more dire straits — are asking for help for the first time in their lives. A startlingly high number of people may already be infected with the coronavirus and not showing symptoms, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. That realization is complicating efforts to predict the pandemic’s course and mitigate its spread, and has led the C.D.C. to consider broadening its guidelines on whether healthy people should wear masks.

When María José Rodríguez heard on local television that her town in northeastern Spain would be locked down within hours, she knew she had to leave or risk losing her family’s business.

She grabbed a bag of groceries, a fresh change of clothes and her car keys, said goodbye to her husband and drove to her son’s apartment in a nearby village, above the family bakery. For more than two weeks, she has been locked out of the town, Igualada. Her husband has been locked in, and they have no way of knowing how long it will go on.

“Had I not moved out to keep running the bakery, we would have had to close it,” Ms. Rodríguez, 63, said at her shop in the village of La Pobla de Claramunt. “But we’ll be fine, and I call my husband 50 times a day. At the very least.”

Many European countries have imposed various forms of lockdowns to contain the epidemic, but Igualada, an industrial town 30 miles northwest of Barcelona, stands out. Even as Spain has imposed a nationwide lockdown, it has cut Igualada off from the rest of the country — a lockdown within a lockdown.

After its hospital was identified as a hub of a regional outbreak that has reached nearly 20,000 coronavirus infections and more than 2,500 deaths, officials sealed off Igualada and three smaller neighboring towns at midnight on March 12, stranding about 65,000 people.

Police forces guard every access point, allowing only essential workers to enter and leave. The barriers have divided families like Ms. Rodríguez’s, put people out of work and thrown households into uncertainty for weeks, if not more.

“We are in a cage, and we are learning how to stop trying to control everything,” said Gemma Sabaté, a 48-year-old physical therapist stranded there.

While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all research, other than anything related to coronavirus, has ground to a halt.

Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been started, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.

On a recent morning, for example, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that a ferret exposed to Covid-19 particles had developed a high fever — a potential advance toward animal vaccine testing. Under ordinary circumstances, they would have started work on an academic journal article.

“But you know what? There is going to be plenty of time to get papers published,” said Paul Duprex, a virologist leading the university’s vaccine research. Within two hours, he said, he had shared the findings with scientists around the world on a World Health Organization conference call. “It is pretty cool, right? You cut the crap, for lack of a better word, and you get to be part of a global enterprise.”

Dr. Duprex’s lab in Pittsburgh is collaborating with the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the Austrian drug company Themis Bioscience. The consortium has received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, a Norway-based organization financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a group of governments, and is in talks with the Serum Institute of India, one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world.

The clamor for corporate funding is raising concerns about a financial reckoning reminiscent of 2008.

In a single week in March, as financial markets convulsed and major parts of the economy began shutting down, banks made over $240 billion in new loans to companies — twice as much in new lending as they would ordinarily extend in a full year.

American companies are reeling from the body blow dealt by the pandemic. As revenues dwindle, travel slows and production lines halt, companies have begun to furlough or lay off employees, slash investment in operations and buy less from their suppliers. With no way to tell when the economy will restart, they are racing to conserve money and tap as much credit as possible.

The new reality, say bankers and analysts, will be tough for companies that had grown accustomed to the easy money of the past decade. Enticed by ultralow interest rates, they borrowed trillions of dollars in new debt in the belief that banks would keep lending and the debt markets would always be open. Now many indebted companies, even those whose business has not taken a direct hit from the outbreak, are finding that they have to adapt to an era in which cash is suddenly much harder to raise.

Nellie Bowles, who covers tech and internet culture from San Francisco for The New York Times, wrote about her losing battle with screens.

Before the coronavirus, there was something I used to worry about. It was called screen time. Perhaps you remember it.

I thought about it. I wrote about it. A lot. I would try different digital detoxes as if they were fad diets, each working for a week or two before I’d be back on that smooth glowing glass.

Now I have thrown off the shackles of screen-time guilt. My television is on. My computer is open. My phone is unlocked, glittering. I want to be covered in screens. If I had a virtual reality headset nearby, I would strap it on.

The screen is my only contact with my parents, whom I miss but can’t visit because I don’t want to accidentally kill them with the virus. It brings me into happy hours with my high school friends and gives me photos of people cooking on Facebook. Was there a time I thought Facebook was bad? An artery of dangerous propaganda flooding the country’s body politic? Maybe. I can’t remember. That was a different time.

A lot of people are coming around.

Walt Mossberg, my former boss and a longtime influential tech product reviewer, deactivated his Facebook and Instagram accounts in 2018 to protest Facebook’s policies and negligence around fake news. Now, for the duration of the pandemic, he is back.

“I haven’t changed my mind about the company’s policies and actions,” Mr. Mossberg wrote on Twitter last week. “I just want to stay in touch with as many friends as possible.”

Laundry, grocery shopping, even walking the dog is fraught with challenges these days. The key to accomplish any essential task is a little preparation, levelheaded thinking and a lot of hand washing before and after. (A few anti-bacterial wipes can’t hurt either.)

Reporting was contributed by Andrew Das, Michael D. Shear, Elian Peltier, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly and Peter Eavis.





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